STATEMENT: Seek Peace and Pursue It

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(Statement of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform on the GRP-NDFP peace process)

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) is saddened by the latest development in the peace process. Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in a statement during a forum of peace advocates, said the NDFP should rather wait for the next administration to engage in formal peace talks than to continue the negotiations with President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. This comes at the heels of the postponement of the scheduled fifth round formal talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP on June 28-30. The government said that it would like to conduct consultations before returning to the negotiating table and later announced that it wants the talks to be held in the country.

Prof. Sison was frustrated over the repeated cancellations of formal talks and the many promises that the President had broken, including the amnesty and release of all political prisoners. He also stated that the NDFP would rather join other forces in ousting President Duterte. The latter downplayed the statement of Prof. Sison and said the war would continue. Prof. Sison later clarified that only the National Council of the NDFP can make the decision to suspend, cancel or terminate the peace negotiations and he can only give an advice to the said Council.

We pray that the exchange of verbal tirades between both parties would not result to a possible termination of the peace negotiations. Such termination would surely lead to the escalation of violence especially in the country side. The “stand down” ceasefire agreement and the interim peace agreement could have lessened the casualties in the armed conflict. Incidents like the bloody “misencounter” in Samar between the troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) could have been prevented. The AFP and PNP forces were reportedly responding to sightings of members of the New People’s Army in the area.

The PEPP continues to hope for the signing of an interim peace agreement that was supposed to be part of the agenda for the GRP-NDFP fifth round of formal talks. The agreement was expected to

result to a coordinated unilateral ceasefire, general amnesty for NDFP-listed political prisoners, and agrarian reform and rural development as well as national industrialization and economic development agreements. Moreover, there are other agreements made in the previous rounds of talks that could have been historical building blocks for a just and enduring peace.

As church leaders inspired by the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we still believe in the power of principled dialogue. We implore both parties to seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:11) and open the doors to dialogue. We also appeal to the Royal Norwegian Government to continue helping the Filipino people in convincing the government and the NDFP to resume the formal peace talks. We call on the Filipino people to continue praying and working for peace in our land. The GRP-NDFP peace negotiations is not for the two parties alone but for all of us and future generations – “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Issued and signed on this day 29thJune 2018.

ARCHBISHOP ANTONIO J. LEDESMA, S.J., D.D.

Co-chairperson, PEPP

Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro City

 

REV. FR. REX R.B REYES, JR.

Co-chairperson, PEPP

National Council of Churches in the Philippines

 

BISHOP DEOGRACIAS S. INIGUEZ, JR. D.D

PEPP Head of Secretariat

Ecumenical Bishops Forum

 

BISHOP NOEL A. PANTOJA

National Director

Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches

 

SR. MARY JOHN D. MANANZAN, OSB

OWGC-AMRSP

 

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